Canada’s a lovely place, but getting a job in Canada isn’t as straightforward as you might wish (unless you’re actually Canadian). It’s not that there aren’t any vacancies, the obstacle is getting a visa that will entitle you to work there.

The good news is that, even if it’s not easy, it’s certainly possible, and there are plenty of options to look into.

The other good news for English speakers is that although Canada has two official languages you’re unlikely to have to brush up on your plumes de ta tante unless you’ve got your heart set on working in the province of Quebec.

Here’s our guide to help you understand what’s involved in working in Canada…

What kind of jobs are there in Canada?

Despite its image in the popular imagination as a vast natural landscape exporting endless logs across the border to the chagrin of President Trump, most of Canada’s economic industry is not based on agriculture. In fact, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting combined generate about 1.5% of Canada’s GDP.

Nor do most people work extracting things from the ground, although it’s true that, thanks to its rich reserves of oil and gas, Canada is one of the few developed nations that is a net exporter of energy. These large oil and gas resources are mostly in Alberta and the Northern Territories, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. But again, this activity accounts for just a fraction of Canada’s economic output.

No, disappointingly, some three-quarters of Canadians work in the service sector which accounts for 70% of GDP and this is where most of the jobs are.

The skills most in demand in Canada

Canada’s economy has been doing rather well over the last few years but businesses are finding it difficult to enjoy the boom as there simply aren’t enough skilled people to resource the expansion.

Figures from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) revealed that in Q4 of 2017 there were 399,000 unfilled jobs in Canada’s private sector. British Columbia was the most affected province with 69,500 vacancies – a vacancy rate of 3.9% – followed by Quebec (3.4%) and Ontario (3.2%). Sectors most in demand include personal services and construction.

However, none of this necessarily makes it any easier to get permission to work there. For that, you need to pore over Canada’s official list of in-demand occupations which has an astonishing 347 occupations listed ranging from agricultural and fish products inspectors to legislators.

Finding the right visa to allow you to work in Canada

Depending on your situation and your aspirations, there are several ways to approach solving the knotty problem of how to become eligible to work in Canada:

Working holiday

If you’re between 18 and 30 then International Experience Canada (IEC) could provide you with the opportunity to travel and work there.

Temporary work visa

Agricultural workers, business people and carers are among those who can readily apply for a temporary work permit. If you can fix up a job before you go, you can apply for an employer-specific work permit. Open work permits entitle you to work for just about anyone apart from those employers who ‘regularly offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages’.

Skilled and looking to live in Canada permanently?

If you’re looking to move to Canada permanently and have the right skills, the Express Entry scheme could be for you. People with skills and experience in management, professional, and technical trades who are successful are placed into a pool of pre-approved applicants from which businesses can pluck the individuals they like the look of to help fill their skills gaps.


The Start-up Visa Program connects Canadian business organisations with immigrant entrepreneurs who have the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada. With the support of a designated organisation, immigrant entrepreneurs can apply for permanent residence in Canada and launch their start-up there. Designated organisations include venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubators that have been approved to support these start-ups.

Self-employed artists and athletes

The seemingly random Self-Employed Persons Program is for people wanting a self-employed life in Canada in either the arts (‘cultural activities’) or athletics. You must have relevant experience working yourself. You can’t be in a hurry, though, as this process can take two years.

Provincial schemes

  • If you speak French, it’s worth looking to the province of Quebec which has its own separate immigration service
  • The Atlantic Immigration Pilot helps businesses in four provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) to find people to fill the jobs they can’t find local people to do

Best places to work in Canada

If you want to find an employer worth jumping through all those immigration hoops for, then there’s no shortage of polls, lists and league tables to guide you. These employ wildly varying degrees of rigour but can give you some ideas of employers worth pursuing.

  • Take a look at the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project which uses eight criteria to evaluate the best places to work: physical workplace, work atmosphere and social, pay and benefits, time off, employee communications, performance management, training, and community involvement. The 100 making the list aren’t ranked, just arranged alphabetically from Aboriginal Peoples Television Network Inc to Yukon, Government of
  • The Great Place to Work website concludes that of its participating companies (who have to pay to take part) the five top Canadian employers of more than 1,000 people in 2018 are: Salesforce, Ultimate Software, Whirlpool Canada Stryker and Intuit Canada
  • Job site Indeed’s Top-Rated Workplaces: Best in Canada is based on ratings and reviews left on its company pages. It concludes that if these are anything to go by, the five best places to work in 2018 are AccorHotels, Ledcor, American Express, Suncor and TD Bank

Tax and other deductions from your pay: what to expect in Canada

Interesting fact: up until the First World War, there was no income tax in Canada at all because the country was so anxious to encourage people to come and work there. Those days are gone and – as you’ll expect by now if you’ve done even the most cursory research into life in Canada – there’s no Canada-wide standard for income tax rates, these being a combination of federal and provincial income taxes.

The basic rate of federal income tax is 15% on the first $46,605 of taxable income with provincial basic rates ranging from Nunavut’s 4% on the first $44,437 to Manitoba’s 10.8% on the first $31,843.

The federal government collects personal income tax on behalf of all provinces and territories except for Quebec which, as usual, does its own thing. You’ll need to fill out an annual self-assessment return, although employers will deduct your income tax from your pay packet, along with other contributions you’re obliged to make with regard to, for example, the Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan (CPP/QPP), Employment Insurance (EI) and Provincial Parental Insurance (PPIP).

It sounds like a lot but, in fact, taking into account all taxes paid – including property taxes, sales taxes, excise duties and so on – the tax burden on the Canadian in the street is relatively low with Canada coming way down the list at 25 in a tax league table of the 35 mostly developed OECD countries.

Adapting your CV for Canadian employers

First, cross out ‘CV’ and put ‘Résumé’.

Canadian employers tend to value succinctness over thoroughness and facts over gush. The horrendous trend for ‘personal statements’ and the like has yet to sweep Canada. Your résumé needs very few sections:

  • Contact information
  • Your main qualifications (professional and/or academic)
  • A summary of your career so far. This should focus on your achievements in each role, not your duties
  • Include a section on work experience if you have just started out and don’t have much paid work experience
  • Your education and training history
  • If you have taken part volunteer work, do include a section summarising what you’ve done. Canadian employers think well of people who give up their time to help out worthy causes

As a rule-of-thumb, your résumé should be two pages long at the most – one if you don’t have much work experience.

  • Do customise your résumé to suit the job you’re applying for
  • Don’t list your hobbies and interests unless they are relevant to the job
  • Don’t include references

Is your qualification valid in Canada?

Broadly speaking, this depends on whether you’re working in a regulated occupation or not. If you are, then the relevant provincial or territorial regulatory authority will be the arbiter of the validity of your there. About one in five jobs are regulated including doctors, engineers, plumbers, and teachers. For more information, visit the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.

If your job is not on the list of regulated occupations, then it’s usually just up to the employer as to whether they accept your qualification or not.

Repatriating your wages back to the UK

If you find yourself raking it in over in Canada and you want to send money back home – or when you come to the end of your visit and need to get the contents of your Canadian back account back to the UK – be careful how you go about it. Asking your bank to transfer the money is probably the most expensive way to do it. Not only are the transfer charges likely to be absurdly high, but the CAD/GBP exchange rate they give you is likely to chip quite a chunk off the value.

The cheapest way to make international payments is to use a service such as WorldFirst’s personal money transfer which is simple and transparent. Just three steps:

  1. Make an international transfer: Tell us how much you want to send (over £1,000), who you want to pay and which currency you want to pay in. Then we’ll quote you a rate and you can book the trade
  2. Send us your money: Once you’ve booked your rate you’ll receive a trade confirmation containing all the payment information so you can pay World First by debit card or bank transfer
  3. We make your payment: That’s it. Put your feet up. World First will convert your funds and send the money to the account you requested, all at a great rate

Currency transfers of CAD10,000 or more must be reported to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

More advice on Moving to Canada